Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

A Parent’s View: The Seattle Children’s Kids’ Marathon

A marathon for kids? Really? When I heard about the Seattle Children's Kids' Marathon I wondered how little kids could possibly run that distance. After all, it takes quite a bit of training, lots of dedication and plenty of time to prepare for a race of that length, and I hadn't seen a legion of Seattle's children hitting the Burke-Gilman recently. So, I did a little research.

Turns out, the Seattle Children's Kids' Marathon, sponsored by Seattle Children's Hospital IS a full 26.2-mile marathon, but it is run over a period of three months. Starting in September, kids in kindergarten through eighth grade can begin logging their training runs, one mile at a time, with the goal of completing 25 miles by the day of the Kids' Marathon. Short training runs equal fun runs and are healthy and safe for growing bodies. On the day of the Kids' Marathon, the registered kids will run the final 1.2 miles together to reach their marathon goal. But that's not all. The kids also are encouraged to read 13 books and perform 13 good deeds during the three months – theoretically completing a second "marathon" that exercises their minds and hearts in addition to their bodies.

I was hooked. I had been casting about for a way to interest my 7-year-old daughter in running, and this was even better than a simple day-of event. But it was already the end of October, and it didn't seem possible to get in all the miles, good deeds and books before Nov. 26. So, we put out the word to her Girl Scout Brownie troop, found five friends who also were interested in the event, did a little brainstorming, and decided to do an abbreviated version of the marathon as a practice run for 2012. We set a goal of one mile per week, and each girl set her own goals for books and good deeds.

Our Brownie troop created a form for tracking our progress, but the Seattle marathon website has comprehensive instructions and colorful spreadsheets available for keeping track of the kids' accomplishments as well. And, there were plenty of opportunities to rack up the miles. Six laps around my daughter's elementary school's playground is half a mile, a typical city block is a quarter mile, as is the local high school track. My daughter did a combination of treadmill running while her Dad read to her, running at her school and running on the Burke-Gilman Trail with me. My favorite run found us halfway out when the rain began, and completely drenched by the time we made it home, laughing hysterically.

On the day of the race, our pack included six kids and five adults. We (the parents) thought we would run together – a very civilized group representing our troop of Brownies. Clearly they (the kids) were not on the same page. The starting buzzer sounded, and our kids plus 3,000 more burst through the gates as if they had been shot out of a cannon. And we (the parents) instantly realized our mistake. Kids were darting in and out of their fellow runners. My daughter resembled a pink ping-pong ball as I watched her ricochet from one side of the road to another. One of our dads promptly lost track of his daughter for about a half a mile, and all of us realized that the kids were way quicker than we had given them credit for.

The course took us around the Space Needle, up a short hill past the Seattle Children's Theatre and down Mercer alongside McCaw Hall. The 1.2 miles flew by, and before we knew it we were speeding into Memorial Stadium and across the finish line, greeted by a roaring crowd. Plastic finisher blankets were passed around, and we were gently herded into the convention hall for juice, slushies, chocolate milk, bananas and the ever important finisher T-shirts. With the exception of the constant hum as missing parents were reunited with their runners at lost and found (matching kid/parent bib numbers made it easy and safe), it was exactly like the scene you would witness at the end of every marathon; plenty of photos, hugs and high fives and lots of loitering as runners grazed the food tables. Awesome!

The Seattle Children's Kids' Marathon is an offshoot of the yearly Seattle Marathon, which occurs on Sunday of the same weekend. It was added to the Seattle Marathon programming in 1999 and promptly gained the attention of physical education instructors and other youth groups across Washington state. That first year, 357 children participated. Last Saturday, more than 2,200 ran, representing 52 schools and other children's organizations such as Girl Scouts.

With two younger brothers at home, it can sometimes be hard for my daughter to get my undivided attention. Over the course of the past month, we discovered that our short runs gave us that mama/daughter time. We held hands, we skipped, we laughed and I got to hear lots of tales from her school days. I can't wait to start training for next year's kids' marathon.

Erika Lee Bigelow is the Going Places editor for Seattle’s Child, a mom of three, and a devoted runner. 

About the Author

Erika Lee Bigelow